Get Picking Blueberries at the Farm for Fun and Health in 2023
Walking into the field, with its long, straight rows of three- to four-foot-tall blueberry bushes laden with fruit is a spiritual experience for me. Right at shoulder height are bundles of green (don’t pick ’em), blue, and deep purple orbs full of sweet juice and firm flesh that make my mouth happy!
I start by walking up to the field’s caretaker in the fresh, clean air. Greeted with a “Welcome. Do you need a bucket?” I thank them and tie the white container around my waist, make sure I have plenty of drinking water and reply, “Where’s the best area to pick today?”
After choosing the best location, I venture out into one of the most peaceful places on earth for me: the blueberry field. My close-toed shoes will protect my feet from ants, sand, stinging nettle, or creepy crawlies, my hat will protect my face from the effects of Florida’s sun, and my appetite will be primed for some of the best eating I have ever enjoyed – just-picked blueberries.
I snatch the best-looking berry from the closest bush as I walk by to my chosen starting point and pop it into my mouth. YUM! A burst of sweetness, with a chaser of a tiny tartness explodes on my tongue, providing a healthy, delicious sensation that can only be sated from April to mid-May on the Nature Coast.
Best Blueberry Farms on Florida’s Nature Coast
When choosing a farm to pick your blueberries at, consider the following ones:
- Bette’s Blues Blueberry Farm – Citrus Springs
- Green Acres You Pick Blueberry Farm – Spring Hill
- JG Ranch – Brooksville
- Starkey Farms – New Port Richey
- Upicktopia – Masaryktown
You can click on each link above to see their hours, locations, and additional activities. There are other farms in the region, but these particular farms have worked with NatureCoaster and we trust them.
Did you know that Florida is the eighth largest producer of commercial blueberries in the U.S.?
We are blessed to have several commercial and u-pick farms in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties. Some berry farms include play areas, some have shelters, some have prepicked berries, and some are wide open. Some have blackberries and vegetables available for upick also.
The Green Acres You Pick Blueberries Farm is having markets each weekend and they have adorable in the 2023 season. Upicktopia has a winery and restaurant onsite. All have restrooms of some type – often the portable kind.
Brooksville is Celebrating with a Blueberry Festival April 29-30
Best of all, we have a Blueberry Festival in Brooksville April 29-30, 2023! Next week, we will write about this exciting event with music headliner, Colt Ford, over 320 vendors, nonprofits providing crafts and fun for the kiddos, and activities like a blueberry eating contest, Mr. & Ms. Blueberry pageants, blueberry shortcake, blueberry wine, blueberry beer, and more! And its FREE!
How Blueberries become a Commercial Crop in the Nature Coast
Blueberries began being grown commercially in Florida in the 1970s, with University of Florida developing a southern highbush variety that launched the industry in 1976 called “Sharpblue.”
Sharpblue is the foundational cultivar for southern highbush blueberry production. In 1996, UF brought out Star, which offered early ripening and high-fruit quality. Jewel came in 1998. 1999 brought the Emerald variety, which is well-adapted to Central Florida, and the most commonly grown blueberry variety in Florida.
Snowchaser came on the scene in 2005, and as one of the earliest-ripening southern highbush varieties in the world, giving farmers the ability to grow high-quality fruit in a window when market prices are often high. Its fruit has excellent flavor and aroma, and it has performed well in evergreen production systems which is quite important as we are seeing temperatures climb each year.
Farmers make money both by the quantity of produce grown and by the price that fruit gets. The price per pound is based on supply and demand. If the market is flooded with produce, the per pound rate will be lower than if it is difficult to get. Size and quality of produce adds into the mix also.
Many local farms have planted several blueberry varieties to provide fresh fruit for several weeks.
All About Blueberries: Random Blueberry Facts
Blueberries are ranked No. 1 in antioxidant activity compared out of 40 commercially available fruits and vegetables. That means a serving of blueberries has more of the antioxidant power you need to fight aging, cancer, and heart disease.
1 cup of blueberries normally weighs about 143 grams, or 1/3 of a pound, so 1 pound of blueberries is almost 3 cups’ worth. Many recipes call for 3 to 4 cups of blueberries for a 9-inch pie.
1 cup (143 grams) of blueberries is 84 calories. Blueberries contain no cholesterol or fat and are also low in calories. Blueberries are high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A, and niacin. They contain iron and other trace minerals and are a fair source of Vitamin C.
Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with notably high levels of the manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber. One serving provides a relatively low glycemic load score of 4 out of 100 per day.
In wild species, blueberries have been found to contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments, and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and different cancers. Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit cancer cell development and inflammation in the womb. Some blueberry species contain significant levels of resveratrol in their skins, a phytochemical with increasing evidence as an anti-cancer compound.
Practical Tips for Getting the Most from Your Blueberry U-Pick Experience
Call the Farm before you Visit – Make sure the farm you plan to visit has the fruit you’re looking for available for picking when you want to visit and that they are not having weather issues.
Protect yourself – Bring water and wear a hat, plenty of sunscreen, close-toed shoes, and clothes that you don’t mind getting a little stained with blueberry juice. Long sleeves protect you from too much sun exposure – and please REST when you get tired. Be aware that dehydration can make you sick.
Pick One bush at a time – Find a bush with plenty of ripe berries and stick with it until you’ve picked it clean. This can be difficult, as another bush’s fruit may lure you, but you’ll save more energy for picking if you’re not moving around a lot, and you’ll leave other bushes in better condition for your fellow pickers.
Get in there – Don’t just pick the berries from the very front of the bush. The best clusters of plump, ripe berries are often on the undersides of branches.
Be Gentle with the Fruit – The best way to pick blueberries is to roll the berries between your thumb and the palm of your hand. The ripe ones easily fall off. Remember, if the berry doesn’t want to leave the bush, it isn’t ripe enough for you!
Bring a Cooler – You can carry water up to the farm in the cooler. It can get awfully hot in the car during your picking adventure. On the way home, your fruit will store better in a cooler.
How to Wash and Store Blueberries
To clean blueberries, put the amount you need in a colander and rinse them under cold water using a gentle spray. Spread the berries out on paper towels and let them air dry for a few hours.
If you’re storing blueberries in the refrigerator, don’t wash your blueberries until you are ready to eat them or use them. Moisture from washing causes them to go bad more quickly. Refrigerate fresh berries right after your visit to the blueberry patch. Store them in a large, open bowl or container.
How to Freeze Blueberries
Rinse and dry blueberries before freezing them. Freeze blueberries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet that fits in your freezer for 30 minutes. Then transfer your berries to a resealable bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, label with the date and store the bags flat for stacking.
How Long Do Fresh-Picked Blueberries Last?
If properly stored, blueberries can last up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, though they are best when eaten within a week. Blueberries can last up to 10 months in the freezer but retain the most flavor until the 6-month mark.